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Plastics that have been separated and baled together are ready to be moved from Baltimore County's Material Recovery Facility in Cockeysville.
Plastics that have been separated and baled together are ready to be moved from Baltimore County's Material Recovery Facility in Cockeysville. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

A plant that recycles plastics for use in bottles, carpet, drainpipes and other products has opened in Dundalk and expects to employ 60 people on three shifts when it reaches full capacity in January.

The joint venture between St. Louis-based QRS Recycling and Canusa-Hershman Recycling buys plastics from facilities that sort and process curbside recyclable materials. It sells some of the processed plastic to manufacturers across the United States.

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QRS of Maryland is leasing 140,000 square feet in three adjacent buildings on Fischer Road in an industrial area of Baltimore County, a $15 million investment including equipment. QRS will operate the plant, while Canusa-Hershman buys materials to be processed there.

"We are often an alternative to landfilling the materials," said QRS CEO Greg Janson, a co-owner of the business with his brother, Matt Janson.

Baltimore County officials have been working with QRS for about two years to help find a suitable building, said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz. He and state Secretary of Commerce Mike Gill are expected to tour the plant as part of a kickoff ceremony on Tuesday.

The company looked at other sites in Maryland as well as in Pennsylvania and New Jersey before narrowing the search to Baltimore County, then spent months looking for the right price on a space with adequate power and ceiling height, Janson said.

The 41-year-old company has been expanding and branched into plastic recovery about five years ago, he said. It also operates plastic recovery plants in St. Louis and Atlanta.

A plant in the Baltimore area made sense because it was close to population centers in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Southeast, Janson said.

"It's a centralized location and has a great industrial history, and so we found a qualified workforce," Janson said.

Jobs include shift supervisors, equipment operators, line supervisors and quality-control technicians, he said.

The company has found a growing domestic market for the plastics that previously had been exported largely to Asia, Janson said.

"With some challenges in recent years to export, we saw an opportunity to provide a consistent domestic solution for this material, and we've been able to establish confidence by the recyclers in the region that there will be a market for this mixed material," he said.

At the same time, he said, manufacturers have increasingly turned to recycled plastic "resin."

The company redeveloped an existing building but brought in new equipment. Operations started last month with one shift.

Baltimore County operates its own materials recycling facility, where paper, plastic and other materials are sorted, Kamenetz said.

"What this company does is take it to the next step … and allows it to be recovered into a more usable resource," Kamenetz said of the plastic. "This plant will allow that much more debris to avoid our landfills.

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"It's good for the economy, it's good for our landfill, and it's good for our clean air," he said.

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